Friday, December 30, 2005

2005 Headlines You Might Have Missed

Another NY Times Article.

Speaking of Video Games

"No one shoots anyone in Food Force. Rebels are negotiated with, not blown away, and the women are sensibly dressed aid professionals - although one character does greatly resemble Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. Yet Food Force has quickly become the second most downloaded free Internet game, after the Army's recruiting tool, America's Army.

"More than three million people have downloaded it so far (at, for both Macs and Windows) - and it is only now being translated into languages other than English and Japanese.

"Food Force has also attracted an unlikely partner in the N.F.L. Players Association, which promises a trip to the Super Bowl for the child with the highest score.

"The game is this: the fictional Indian Ocean island of Sheylan has been ravaged by drought and civil war; millions of people need food. The player joins a World Food Program team and must airdrop food from a C-130 Hercules; pilot a surveillance chopper; navigate a supply truck through land mines and guerrilla checkpoints; coordinate shipping and prices for rice, beans and oil on the world market; design a nutritionally balanced food package for the hungry; and use food to help rebuild a community."

Read the rest.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Don't Think About It

Interesting article from the NY Times:

"Our conclusion? Too much analysis can confuse people about how they really feel. There are severe limits to what we can discover through self-reflection, and trying to explain the unexplainable does not lead to a sudden parting of the seas with our hidden thoughts and feelings revealed like flopping fish."

"Self-reflection is especially problematic when we are feeling down. Research by Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, a clinical psychologist at Yale University, shows that when people are depressed, ruminating on their problems makes things worse."

Spring Cleaning in December

It all started 6 or 7 years ago while browsing at the Sharper Image at the Plaza. We came across this electronic, person-shaped punching dummy. Zones of the body would light up and you would have to hit them while lit for your boxing/kick-boxing workout. The spouse thought it was so cool, but we weren't going to pay the hundreds of dollars (I forget how much) they wanted for it. Ever since she's been wanting some kind of fighting game for exercise. We watched as boxing games with gloves came out for home video game consoles, but we're not gamers and never wanted to spend the money. Well my mom, after hearing her talk about it for years, decided to finally get her something for Christmas this year. She got us a PS2 with the Eyetoy Kinetic game. It comes with a USB camera that you put on top of your TV so you can become part of the game. You see yourself on the screen and have to react to the floating shapes around you, hitting/kicking some and avoiding others. Comes with built-in personal trainers that talk to you and customize your workouts. You can select your workouts from the 4 different zones: cardio, combat, toning, and mind and body. It's really cool.

As soon as we tried to start playing with it, however, we discovered that we needed more room in front of the TV to make it work. We've both had the entire week between Christmas and New Year's off for vacation, so it seemed the perfect time to rearrange the furniture in the living room. Once we moved the couches and such, it seemed on logical to vacuum well, wipe the floorboards, and give everything a good cleaning. It was also the perfect time to de-clutter. By the end of the day we had a beautiful new living room for the new year. Of course, then the rest of the house felt filthy and cluttered in comparison, so we've had to spend the rest of the week cleaning everything else to match. It really improves the mood to have a pleasant environment surrounding you. And it's been a nice change from work. I certainly don't mind sitting in front of the computer all day as part of my job then coming home to do stuff like this, but being active and productive in a different way has been a nice change of pace.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Merry Holidays!

"Are you the Coyote?"

"Some people call me that. Also the Changer. Monkey. Raven. Weasel. Snake. Loki, Herm, Legba, Glooscap, Eshu, Shaitan. Prometheus."

Just a bit of a teaser from Summerland, by Michael Chabon (who won a Pulitzer for his comic book inspired The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which I have yet to read), the book I've been listening to during my commute lately. It's a fun mix of fairy tales, mythology, and baseball. "J" level, but 500 pages. I highly recommend it, especially if you're a baseball enthusiast (which I am not).

You crazy guys and your linking

You know, these "links" you all "post" are cool and all, but what about us losers who don't want to link to other sites? What about the ones who want to express themselves in their own words and in their own way? What about them? What about me?
Some day, the diminutive masses will gather and rise up against the over-lording "linkers," and when that day comes, my friends, you had better be ready.
"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee."
Yeah... you heard it. I pulled some Pulp Fiction on ya. We can't be controlled. We can't be ruled by you borgo... borjw... borgh... ruling class kind of people.

Oh yeah, and you might like this link.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Yes, That! That Exactly!

It always bugs me when bloggers don't actually write posts, but just throw their readers a link, with nary a word. But then, I often do bug myself. More often than not, it seems lately. Anyway... here it is.

I'm Honestly Not That Bored

Just found out that Degolar is Portuguese for decollate. And also this.

Holiday Traditions

In the midst of our efforts to either destroy or save Christmas, I was thinking about just what the holiday (or one of the others during this season) means (or doesn't mean) to everyone. What are your childhood memories? What are your traditions? How do you celebrate now?

Growing up, Christmas was always a big build-up for us, of course, because of the month-long decorations, music, and anticipation of presents. The tree would be out with presents underneath at the start of December and we counted the days with our advent calendar.

The true festivities began on Christmas Eve. (Once I was old enough to remember, anyway,) We always attended the 11:00 p.m. church service. The service would focus on a celebration of the birth of Christ and what that meant/means. Often we ended with the lights out and everyone holding a candle. Sometimes we held hands in unity. It was always powerful. The service usually ended with a pronouncement that it was after midnight and now Christmas.

We then went home and slept fitfully until we could stand it no more. Our stockings filled mysteriously during the night and we could explore them right away. Mom and Dad would get up, get their coffee, and gather with us in the living room. We'd share what we found in our stockings then go around the room taking turns opening our presents until nothing was left. We'd have breakfast together and savor the morning.

Sometimes that was all, other years we went to celebrate with the extended families. If we didn't see them on Christmas day, we always saw both extended families on the nearest weekends. All the uncles, aunts, and cousins would get together with our Grandmas and Grandpas and catch up with each other.

It's harder to continue these traditions each year as everyone ages, spreads further apart geographically, and attaches to spouses with different tradtions. Plus the excitement isn't the same as adults and we don't have our own kids yet to share it with. But we still try to find time for as many of the elements as possible, and it's still a special time of year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Thank You Mr. Tomorrow

The inimitable Tom Tomorrow gives us a big dose of truth in a small package:

Support the man, buy it here.

It's the little things.

Like this. I expect Pastafarians to be up in arms before the week is over, demanding equal time for the Flying Spaghetti Monster and condemning the godless, pastaless, court system. I've downloaded the entire ruling in PDF and do truly look forward to the read.

Just a reminder


That is all.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Christian Paradox: How a Faithful Nation Gets Jesus Wrong

More than anything else I’ve read in a long time, this captures my understanding of Christianity. It’s not a quick read, but I recommend it more than any of the other links I’ve put on this blog. Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite, then when you feel thoughtful you can give it a look.

"And therein is the paradox. America is simultaneously the most professedly Christian of the developed nations and the least Christian in its behavior."

"Love your neighbor as yourself: although its rhetorical power has been dimmed by repetition, that is a radical notion, perhaps the most radical notion possible. Especially since Jesus, in all his teachings, made it very clear who the neighbor you were supposed to love was: the poor person, the sick person, the naked person, the hungry person. The last shall be made first; turn the other cheek; a rich person aiming for heaven is like a camel trying to walk through the eye of a needle. On and on and on—-a call for nothing less than a radical, voluntary, and effective reordering of power relationships, based on the principle of love."

"But straight is the path and narrow is the way. The gospel is too radical for any culture larger than the Amish to ever come close to realizing; in demanding a departure from selfishness it conflicts with all our current desires. Even the first time around, judging by the reaction, the Gospels were pretty unwelcome news to an awful lot of people. There is not going to be a modern-day return to the church of the early believers, holding all things in common—-that’s not what I’m talking about. Taking seriously the actual message of Jesus, though, should serve at least to moderate the greed and violence that mark this culture. It’s hard to imagine a con much more audacious than making Christ the front man for a program of tax cuts for the rich or war in Iraq. If some modest part of the 85 percent of us who are Christians woke up to that fact, then the world might change."

The Constitutional Republic: A Good Idea While it Lasted

Tyranny isn't just for the Europeans anymore (or the Asians, Africans, Middle Easterners, and Latin Americans). Thanks to BUSHCO, we're well on our way there too. Read this. All so scary, all so true.

His Noodly Appendage at Work

"I'll sit on the couch, waving it around while I'm watching something on TV. Or sometimes I'll chase my wife around the house with it."

Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach on his replica pirate sword. Leach is a pirate enthusiast.

(Found in the sports section of yesterday's KC Star.)

What's Your Grievance?

"Really big issues that affect all of us — health-care accessibility, for instance — are seemingly insolvable. Why stress ourselves out worrying about Social Security when we can boycott Target for running ads that omit the word “Christmas”?

"Grievances allow us to flex our muscle. We’ve managed, in this nation, to conceal severe poverty in urban and rural pockets. We don’t mind sitting atop a mountain of debt. With a little effort, most of us can even forget we’re bogged down in a war half a world away.

"Isn’t it great to know we can still work up some all-American outrage to ban gay marriage or defend Christmas?"

Barbara Shelly of the KC Star

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Weak Are Cruel

"The weak are cruel. The strong have no need to be."

I was just looking at the new books before putting them out for patrons, and this quote was the only thing on the back cover of an interesting looking YA novel. I like it. I put a request on the book and should be reading it sometime next month.

The Foretelling, by Alice Hoffman

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Just Lacking Leelu's Two Cents Now

I've been trying to ignore this whole debate because I think it's rather silly, but it seems to be permeating everything I read or hear lately. Since Hadrian and Lummox have had their say about Christmas 2005, I guess I'll offer my take. Which is: Relax. Enjoy celebrating your holiday (or not) with your family and friends and be considerate enough to let everyone else do the same. Don't force your holiday on everyone else, but, on the other hand, don't hold it against people if they're excited about celebrating something. The word/idea of Christmas, in and of itself, is not evangelical and doesn't need to be banished from the public realm. But it is a religious holiday (in theory) and shouldn't be forced on those of a different faith or presented in a way that makes them feel excluded from the mainstream for being different. All it takes is a little sensitivity and consideration on everyone's part and this whole issue can just go away.

That said, I do have to admit to being a liberal and don't think the right is being very sensitive or considerate about turning this into a "culture war." As with so many of their other issues, they seem to be creating this idea of a "war on Christmas" as a way to further push their agenda on everyone else. I won't rant too much since Hadrian already did, but thought I could share a bit of reading from the paper this morning. Excerpts

"On the one hand, the Christmas defense team is portraying its side as the overwhelming majority, the 90 percent who celebrate Christmas. On the other hand they are describing themselves as oppressed, indeed victimized. On the one hand they want more Christ in Christmas; on the other hand they want more Christmas in the marketplace. It makes one long for the screeds against commercialism."

"One of the hallmarks of the culture wars is the way tolerance of diverse beliefs is reframed as intolerance for the majority."

And that simple sentence, I think, says it all.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Since we seem to be losing our anonymity, I guess I'll let everyone see what Degolar really looks like.

A glimpse into the future

You know, there have been a lot of old movies that show a future with so many wonderful and miraculous inventions. Well, my friends, the future in those movies has come and gone, but where are the awesome inventions? Where are the pills that can supplement meals? Where are the flying cars? Where are those nifty tubes that use vacuums to move you from place to place? Hell where are the transporters? Where are the robots to do our bidding, our laundry, our cooking, walk our dogs? Where are those cool hats that transmit your thought onto a wall like a movie? Where are all the damn aliens?
I want the future to be here and now!
I want everything to be as cool as they are in the movies!
I want my soylent green!

And now for something completely different... for the Holdiay Season

"The Night Before a Totally Unimportant or Spiritually Significant Day or Group of Days Near the End of the Calendar Year"
By Lummox D. Fairheart

'Twas the night before the next day,
And all through the house,
Everyone was tired of the sociopathic uproars about the phrasings of certain greetings and the use of these greetings in a public forum that the public may or may not take offense to, because they specify or don't specify the celebration of a holiday or set of holidays that have become a standard of living and a steadfast time of giving and sharing and good will in this country,
Even the mouse.

The stockings were hung
By the chimney with care
Until, that is, someone took them down stating that they represented the belief in a figure which neither represented what this season was all about and that they were also a sexist statement or just plain silly,
So screw the little trinkets that children enjoy getting because that would only cause a rift between the family structure because everyone should be treated equally and receive the same amount of physical goods and wealth that everyone else is getting, so that there will be no permanent scarring of any fragile psyches.

When out on the lawn,
I heard such a clatter,
I sprang from my partnered sleeping arrangement facilitating piece of furniture,
To see what was the matter. (It was probably some neo-political correct militia group tearing down the decorations that could possibly offend any passers-by or influence their children to believe in an arbitrary belief system that may or may not exist)

I'll stop all this ranting
And I'll be succinct.
These are my opinions,
It's just what I think.

To sum up this tale
Of holiday woes,
The moral is simple,
And here's how it goes.

Remember this season,
Don't be angry or trite.
Merry Christmas to all,
And to all a good night.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

My Search is Over... Sorta....

How I've missed this for so long I have no idea. Tonight, whilst further exploring the manifold ways of wasting time with my computer and a little help from the good people at Earthlink and Time Warner Cable, I finally discovered Rocketboom. Apparently Atrios has linked there before, but for some reason, I've never followed the link. Sorry, Crooks and Liars, you just lost my vote for best video blog. And while the odds of my ever meeting her are approximately equal to the odds of Dick Cheney giving up all of his material possessions, grabbing a begging bowl, and hitting the streets of Calcutta to spread the Dharma, I think I've found the perfect woman.


Oh, and this one is wet-your-pants funny.

Gaming in Libraries Cures Cancer!!!

And now, my long awaited rebuttal to Degolar's enthusiastic posts in support of gaming in libraries. Lately there has been a flurry of e-mail and conversation about this topic at work, and a serious divide has emerged. The e-mail discussion seems to be unflinchingly positive, to the degree that one would get the impression that the only people who could possibly oppose the introduction of gaming into libraries are the congenitally cranky (okay, guilty) and the hopelessly anachronistic. I, on the other hand think there are valid objections to the idea, and here they are.

From "Application Day" (Degolar, 12/06/05 11:46 am): "Is there something especially appealing about the idea of libraries as studious book places...?". Well, yes, actually. Because if the library is no longer that place (and I would submit that, in large part, it already isn't), then that place will no longer exist in our society. As much as I love Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Half-Price books, they are places of commerce-- often loud ones. The library has always been an almost sacred place, a temple of knowledge, if you will, and bookstores, for all their charm, just aren't the same. (So the question is, will those of us that hold this view of libraries be forever banished to the university library? or will there be a place for us in the public library?)

My strong opposition to this idea, I think, came as quite a shock to Degolar. I'm not someone who disparages gaming as the root of all our social ills, or as an unambiguous time waster with no value whatsoever. In fact, my only real objection to gaming is the money that it continues to cost me. (Must get new video card, must get new video card...) Ok, that, and perhaps the drain on my time that could be put into more fruitful pursuits (it can be a time waster). But the bottom line is I love computer games. I am an avid gamer. In fact, as soon as this post is done I'm going to set about conquering 13th century Europe. And, yes, video games can be educational. I know more about football from playing Madden than I ever would from being a simple spectator (same goes for hockey, thank you NHL '97), but I think the value of games in this respect is limited and being exaggerated by the proponents of this idea. They can improve hand-eye coordination, teach teamwork, etc. , but so can basketball, and I still don't think we should tear out the reference shelves to put in a court.

Which, I think, gets me to the crux of my point. A place for everything, and everything in its place. It seems more and more, that we are attempting to become an all purpose community center. Albeit a community center with a lot of books. Maybe I am an anachronism, but I don't see that as our role (which is not to say that I object to most of our programming-- I don't. Storytimes, current events discussion groups, book clubs, etc. these all seem appropriate to me, but this gaming thing just seems a step too far).

A couple of other random objections:

Again from Degolar: "This is only a recent topic, but many academic types are now studying and beginning to understand the learning value of video games; and not just the "learning" games, but the skills required to succeed in almost all of them (critical thinking, problem solving, etc.). Most tell stories and have a narrative mythology, are a type of literature. We can do a lot more than use games as bait to get at the true learning, but can learn from them in the way we conduct our business and stay relevant in a changing world."

Color me dubious. While I appreciate a game with a good story, I think once again this argument overstates the case. Of the best-selling games, few are storyline intensive, and many of the ones that are (GTA, for example) are not age appropriate for the gamers we're intent on reaching. The list seems to be largely populated by racing games and real-time strategy games. Not a lot of literary quality there. I remain unconvinced that all of the Starcraft in the world will equal the intellectual stimulation of one well written book.

I also think it should be noted that of the games most often cited as having beneficial attributes, the MMORPG's, most are a) subscription based, usually $14.95 a month, and b) require substantial, and I do mean substantial, time commitments to get any real enjoyment out of. Plus, I'm not sure that the online teamwork and social skills translate into those things in the real world. If we want to use RPG's to teach kids social and thinking skills, then I say give them some dice and pencils and large complex sets of rules that they will have to learn to play. Don't let the computer do all the heavy lifting.

Those are my somewhat random thoughts on this topic. Sorry, I don't have a good closer here. Maybe my writing skills have atrophied because of too many computer games (Language skills people! Language skills! The indispensable key to critical thinking and intellectual development, and almost entirely absent from the gaming world... just a thought.)

I leave you with this:

Extra credit to anyone that knows what and where it is.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

A Brief Exercise in Republican Logic

Here is the form:

1. event (x) happens
2. percieved trend (y) occurs
3. since (x) happened before (y), (x) therefore caused (y)

For example:

1. Organized state-led prayer in public schools was deemed unconstitutional in 1963.
2. Since 1963 the culture seems to have gotten more violent and coarse.
3. Therefore, declaring public school prayer unconstitutional has made America a more violent and coarser nation.

This is fun, I think I'll try a couple of my own.

1. The phrase "under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954.
2. Since 1954 the divorce rate has gone up.
3. Therefore, adding "under God" to the Pledge has caused the divorce rate to climb.


1. The motto "In God We Trust" was added to American currency in 1957.
2. John F. Kennedy was assasinated in 1963.
3. "In God We Trust" killed Kennedy.

Of course the massive cover-up led by "under God" has completely obscured "In God We Trust"'s involvement in the JFK murder plot, but someday history will shine a light into those dark corners and the truth will come out.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Wait, I've Changed My Mind

After further reflection, I've decided I was wrong. ID should be taught in public schools. All of them.

Tropical Getaway

My dad is a coach--he also teaches, but his first identity is coach--so I was raised on sports. I'm not completely obsessed with athletics, but they're in my blood. Football is one of my favorite spectator events. I don't consider it worth the time/money to go see them play in person for the most part, but I try to see as many games on the telly as I can. So I rarely make it to Arrowhead. My dad and brother, on the other hand have recently started driving to Dallas (from the Wichita area) a couple of weekends per year to see the Cowboys in person. When they looked at the 2005 schedule last spring and saw the Chiefs were going to be playing in Dallas, they immediately invited me along. I put in a vacation request for today and Monday and made plans to join them. I'm looking forward to the game, of course, but also a weekend with "the guys." I'm getting ready to drive the first leg after I submit this. After beginning the week walking the streets of Chicago in record low temperatures and returning home to a foot of snow, I figure the 50-60 degree weather in Dallas will feel downright tropical.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Sound Familiar?

"People vs. Rocks: Who's Dumber?"

Late Night Randomness, or... Why am I Still Up?

Why the picture? Because I can, that's why. These are my quadrapeds. They are too cute for you! And before you ask, no, I'm not drunk. I'm just up late and screwing around on the computer, for no good reason. Unfortunately I'll probably have to go to work in the morning, despite the nearly foot of snow that is covering my neighborhood. This wouldn't be a problem except that I live a hell of a long way from work. Pardon me for a moment while I consult Google Earth and figure out just how far... ... ... ... Okay, I'm back, and the result is: 22 miles. About what I would have guessed. Not normally a big problem, but in weather like this....

Anyway, at this moment I'm considering the manifold ways in which the internet can be a colossal time waster. You know what I've been doing for the past hour? Downloading themes and extensions for Firefox (after upgrading to 1.5) and customizing my toolbars. (By the way the 1-click weather extension is muy cool.) Before that I was desperately trying to get a grasp on how to use Word Press (I'm no techie people-- I have a history degree), and looking for Word Press themes for my, as yet, content-less other site. Word Press is not quite as plug-and-play-dumbed-down-anybody-can-use-it as Blogger, and I have absolutely no grasp of CSS yet.

Also, and here is the randomness my title promised, I'm currently reflecting on the exquisite wonderfulness of Eddie Bauer fleece pants. I'm toasty, despite the 10 degree temperature here in 64152 (thank you 1-click weather). Less wonderful is that my toasty warm fleece pants are black. Now, scroll back up and check out the hair on those animal companions of mine and you can imagine what these pants look like. That's right, pet hair for every occasion. It doesn't matter what I wear, someone will shed a hair that will show up on it. Of course, the sacrifice is more than worth it.

Not that anyone cares, but there it is.

UPDATE: Here's an interesting trivia fact: the word "Blogger" does not appear in Blogger's default spell check dictionary. Odd that.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Way After Lunch

(Didn't get a chance to post this in Chicago, but here are the thoughts I wrote during the second afternoon.)

The new presenter (Beth Gallaway) has an intriguing title for her talk: “What Libraries Can Do for Gamers Other than Programming.” A rather thorough looking handout, though, and my brain’s wearing out, so I don’t know if I’ll type a whole lot. Interesting . . . instead of asking, “What books do you like?” ask, “What games do you play?” to get at their interests for readers advisory. If I had to choose just one handout to pass on, in fact, it would be this one. Maybe I can get copies made for our next YS meeting. She’s now sharing a success story using Instant Messenger at work. She shared her screen name with the teens and they started IMing her questions while they used the computers. It started with things like, “the guy next to me is looking at porn” and such, but as she proved responsive it progressed to homework and reference questions. She was at the reference desk a few feet away, but they probably never would have taken the time to ask her in person. Using IMing was much more comfortable for them so it worked better.

Panel discussion time. Atabong is happy to have his laptop back. Sarah had highjacked it so she could blog her reactions, but she had to leave early to catch an earlier flight than ours. Eli just said nothing exists in librarianship until there’s been a conference about it, so now gaming in libraries actually exists. I didn’t write anything about some of the presenters, but there are others already doing things with this and enjoying some success. Good idea: go to potential sponsors and say that 75% (or whatever the number is) of our residents have library cards, so all of them will see your name as supporting us if you help with this initiative. More and more, people’s information needs have to do with using/understanding technology and the Internet. We need to be able to help them with these information needs just like any others, which requires that we be technology and Internet experts. Yes there are still avid readers out there and traditional researchers who we can’t neglect, but there are enough librarians of a similar generation that I don’t think that’s a problem. What I worry about is enough younger librarians who are familiar with all of the latest digital stuff that who can keep up with the new adults coming up. I know I’m one of the tech advocates in our system, yet I barely feel proficient in many of the forms in use now. This symposium has certainly made me feel behind the curve. Huh. Some of the library systems represented here are trying things based on the Netflix model—deliver books and materials by mail, return with no due date. “These people who are so crazy about the books, they’re going to be dead” (Eli). An argument that we eventually won’t have to keep couching the discussion in book terms to get them approved. It’s true that anyone younger than a certain age will only use it if it’s digital and have no use for books. Idea of a Runescape tournament where different branches compete against each other; followed by the idea of video game leagues where winners of tournaments in one location take on those in others, leading to a national championship, hosted in libraries. “Convenience will always trump quality, so it’s our job as librarians to make quality convenient.” Downloadable audiobooks. Now that’s something I hope we get in on right away, because I think it’s going to take off. I know I’m a lot more interested in it than I am audiocassettes or CDaudios or ebooks. I can imagine “reading” quite a lot of books that way, and I see more ipods every day. Some of the other panel members are defending the longevity of books now; they didn’t die out from radio or movies, we’ll just continue to layer more formats on top of each other. But the point is we don’t have to be one or the other, but should instead try to include all. We’re not taking away from books, but adding to it. (Now Eli must defend his provocative-ness: the book won’t die out, just the opinion that books are best.) “It’s not the format, but the content.” People will always be writing novels/telling stories in written form. To bring librarians on board: show them the bibliographies that there is plenty of literature out there advocating the value of gaming.


If things look funny, or somehow, just not quite right around here for the next couple of days, it's because Degolar and I are tinkering with the template. Thinking of redesigning things completely in fact, but we're techie amateurs, so it's a learning process.

Application Day

Yesterday was the day for the college professors to talk about theory and studies and the background information. Today is supposed to be librarians talking about how we can apply all of these ideas to our settings. I’m especially interested in this topic. In addition to the speakers yesterday, I’ve been trying to pick Atabong’s brain and talk with others during lunch and such. Yesterday convinced me that it is happening and is going to continue to happen, so either we get on the boat or miss an opportunity—-just like Blockbuster jumped in when we were slow to warm up to videos, someone said yesterday; you don’t see book rental places, do you, since we came up with the idea for book loaning, but missed our chance to be innovative with videos—-now is our time to get on board with the new gaming technologies since the gamers are out there and not going away. But how should that look at our library? We’re already going with the idea of tournaments, but where from there? Games and gaming software in the collection? Do we focus on consoles, PCs, online, or all three? Do we target kids and teens or all ages? Special events or daily use? Where are we going with all of this? I’m hoping today will help me come up with some good answers to these questions.

Back in the auditorium, listening to another speaker. Hehe. He’s from OCLC, says he gives a lot of talks to librarians. Usually they range from middle-aged to the age of death, so it’s refreshing to see a room with a lot of younger faces. Hmm, “digital immigrants.” He’s talking about younger folk who have grown up with computers and gaming and how they are different than older folk who have had to immigrate. No matter how well they adapt (and many don’t), they’ll still have an accent. The “natives” have been shaped by the digital environment, think and process differently. I’m sure I’ve got a bit of an accent, but not too bad. He’s beginning to shift to application now; after laying out how younger folk are different, he’s going into how we need to be different to reach them. (Not his first point, but) we need to rethink privacy. That’s a big issue in libraryland. In one study, he says, they offered people on the street a $5 Starbucks gift certificate in exchange for computer passwords. 85% went for it. We don’t use our real names on this blog so we can stay a bit “hidden,” but that’s not an issue with our younger friends. I can appreciate the idea of removing some of the barriers to service by lessening our emphasis on privacy, but think there might be too much resistance to make it happen. “Short cuts, not training.” Don’t show them how to do it, show them how to do it more quickly/easily. Also, add cheat books to the collection. Offer services on IM—-again a privacy and security issue. “Bring Digital Natives into your planning process (even if they DON’T have an MLS).” Interesting . . . someone in the audience just said their staff uses IM to communicate all day; could be a way bring people on board. More audience questions, this time about changing the “brand” image of the library as a “box of books.” Certainly the reaction I got from all readers of this blog when I first presented the idea of gaming, that libraries are about books and the rest is way off.

That’s actually a whole other topic, the idea of the “brand” of the library. It goes back to that high/low culture debate that I mentioned yesterday. In library school I remember a professor who read us an excerpt from an article about how we needed to change our “Marian the Librarian” image and how we needed to do things like outreach to get beyond our four walls to be a fuller part of our communities. It was from the 1920s. And we’re still saying the same things and it seems nothing much has changed. This speaker earlier said in a study from the 1950s the library ranked as the 7th place people would go to for information, behind friends, newspapers, and such, and we rank about the same in digital terms. People see us as a quality, reliable place to get information and books, but nothing more. I think libraries should be about information in all of its forms (book, video, digital, etc.) and all of it’s uses (learning, research, entertainment, etc.). I also think they should be community gathering places (meeting rooms, voting, socializing, book clubs, etc.). We already do much of that and have been for a long time, yet the perception of what libraries are (and should be) doesn’t change. Is there something especially appealing about the idea of libraries as studious book places and librarians as stodgy, or is there something we do to continue encouraging that image regardless of our claims otherwise?

A hardcore, serious, lifelong gamer is the new presenter (Eli Neiburger). 95% of teen boys play videogames. In their minds games are content too, so why wouldn’t a library have them? Even though gaming is an $11 billion industry, it’s still a niche market that is just now becoming the mainstream (as the kids who grew up on them grow up), so now is the time to get on board. Speaking of library image, “that’s ‘the bun’ talking,” he just said. You don’t ask the board to do this, you tell them you are; anything different would be micromanagement (you don’t ask if you can have a Harry Potter book club). Tournaments are to video games as storytimes are to picture books. Ann Arbor Library District: sixth month tournament season that builds to the championships (easily reproducible program in a series, like storytime). DDR, Kids’ Kart, Adult Kart and Super Smash (ages 12+), Madden. The only parents who’ll complain will be the ones without kids; no complaints from parents of the participants. “We’ve already, as an industry, lost a generation, the ones in their 20s.” Offer them something of value now or be irrelevant to them for the rest of their lives. His handout/PowerPoint has all the “how to” details. Recommends console over PC events. Has a blog for results, standings, trash-talking in between tournaments to help build momentum for championships, plus a lot of other stuff to explore. Can register your wireless devices on your library account to have access to the library network at their library. We’re watching a DVD of their live TV broadcast of the 2004 championship tournament. He emceed and got some of the kids to provide color commentary. Really cool. If we’re going to imitate anyone for our event, this is the guy to learn from.

(I’ve left a lot out, of course, of all the presentations. I wanted to focus more on capturing my thoughts and reactions. Full notes are available from those in blogger alley (like The Shifted Librarian) and the presentations are going to be available at the website.)

Welcome to Brownshirt America

From the Lawrence Journal World:

Douglas County sheriff’s deputies are investigating the reported beating of a Kansas University professor who’s gained recent notoriety for his Internet tirades against Christian fundamentalists and Catholics.
Religious studies professor Paul Mirecki said he was beaten early Monday morning on the side of the road in rural Douglas County by two unidentified men who’d been tailgating him in a large pickup truck. Mirecki said his attackers made references to the controversy that has propelled him into the headlines in recent weeks.

My extreme frustration at trying to get Blogger's fucking block quotes to work correctly and my lack of time has cut this post short. More later. I promise.

Monday, December 05, 2005

After Lunch

Cool! The new presenter-—Constance Steinkuehler--is showing us a castle siege from the MMOG (Massive Multiplayer Online Game) Lineage II. Paladins, magic, dark elves, and all. She recorded it and put it into her PowerPoint. She said they usually spend 2-6 weeks planning something like that. Lots of strategy meetings and coordinating, but the final result is kind of like a scene from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. Now she’s talking about how some people use real money to buy game value. She’s explaining the difference between the value of a gold piece and a platinum piece. We had the same conversation with Atabong over lunch. He said that much of the gold for sale from games is built up by players in China; the per-hour income from playing to earn game gold to sell on eBay is better than the hourly wage for other labor. The presenter just added that the economy of some of these virtual worlds are actually more powerful than the economies of some real world countries. Of course the point she’s getting to is that all of these meetings, planning, working together to reach both individual and mutual goals, market economics, etc. encountered online are valuable learning experiences with real world transfer. I think I saw a copy of this PowerPoint that someone brought back from a previous conference. It’s good to hear in person. She’s rather impressive and quite brilliant. A well-made case that critics have no understanding of what actually happens during the games, and that there is also a ton of literacy development taking place: fan fiction, emails, tons of reading and writing.

Also over lunch: Atabong shared (after being asked) that he probably spends 2-4 hours a night playing World of Warcraft; 30-40 hours per week. Plus console games on one side for slow periods and movies on the other computer, plus friends on the voice-over-IP. Impressive multitasking. But now I know I don’t have the time needed to get hooked. My triathlon “hobby” takes up any spare time I might have for something like that.

1.8. As an Assistant Professor, she said, her primary job is to write journal articles. And the average number of people who read each journal article written (all, not just hers) is 1.8 readers. It would make feel like, why bother?

Maybe it’s just because I haven’t met the average listeners all around me, but I feel like there are more tech types here than anything else. Followed by (and with quite a bit of crossover) academic types as the next largest group. Librarians seem fewer in number (look at who we brought—I’m the only public service staff of the group). I think it’s actually a good intersection, that the computer people and librarians have a lot to learn from each other and should only improve because of it. I know I have a lot of questions about the technical side of search engines and the like and think I would search better if I understood more about how they worked (not that I’m completely ignorant). But at the same time I’m a little disappointed there aren’t more YS and YA librarians here. The college/university folks are looking at what they can do with gaming, of course, and we had lunch with a school media specialist who is trying to figure out how it might fit into her school, but it seems the public libraries are the most obvious place to start implementing things. I thought there would be more of us.

I'm Ready For My Cyanide Pill

Between the 2004 presidential election, the large segment of the American public that cannot distinguish Al Qaeda from Iraqi Ba'athists, and the continuing unexplainable popularity of Fear Factor, I thought I needed no further evidence of the irredeemable stupidity of the American people. Then, via Jesus' General and ABC news, I am presented with this. Read it, watch the video, bang your head against a table. I cannot even begin to fathom the depth of stupidity that is displayed by this incident.

However, the stupidity is not the scariest thing about it. The really scary quality that is revealed is the unquestioning deference to authority, the blind obedience to orders to systematically rob another human being of their last shred of dignity. People wonder how Abu Ghraib happened. People wonder how the Holocaust happened. I am aghast.

Staying Awake

Well this is exciting. I didn’t try to join “blogger alley” where all the celebrity bloggers are reporting on the proceedings, but I found a power outlet near our seats during the break and am now online during the symposium. I suppose I must admit my true motive is entertaining myself since I don’t sit still and listen for long periods of time very well, but I’m going to try to take notes and write about the content instead of just surfing or playing games (although I suppose playing games would be topical). During the opening speaker Sarah and I were passing notes back and forth about how much this reminds me of library school. All of my classes were weekend intensives (6-9 Fri night, 8-5 Sat, 8-12 Sun), sitting all day listening to lectures about library theory and such. No matter how interesting the subject, it’s hard to stay tuned in. The next two days will be similar.

Right now we are listening to Steve Jones talk about a study he did a few years ago about gaming habits among college students. Les Gasser, the first speaker, made an analogy I like. He said what many in libraries see as the potential for games is like a venus flytrap. We’ll use the games to lure the young into the building so we can close the book trap around them; we find a way for games to maintain the “symbolic status quo” of the library mission of developing literacy. It’s a safe way to understand the idea of gaming in libraries. Paired with this was a reminder of the conflict that’s always existed in libraries between high and low culture, and there’s always been resistance to incorporating the “low” cultural forms: fiction, paperbacks, picture books, A/V and media, toys, Internet, and now console games. But just as each of those other forms has become accepted and we now appreciate the value they bring to what we do/offer, video games are likely to do the same. As anyone youngish will tell you, games are fairly ubiquitous now and they reflect the emerging culture and are a big part of social life. This is only a recent topic, but many academic types are now studying and beginning to understand the learning value of video games; and not just the “learning” games, but the skills required to succeed in almost all of them (critical thinking, problem solving, etc). Most tell stories and have a narrative mythology, are a type of literature. We can do a lot more than use games as bait to get at the true learning, but can learn from them in the way we conduct our business and stay relevant in a changing world.

Other thoughts: last night many who were staying at the hotel gathered in the bar to meet, etc. I learned from Atabong and some new people about World of Warcraft, which they pay $15 per month to play. It’s an online fantasy RPG. I described what appeals to me about playing paper-and-book D&D so we could compare notes. Beth Gallaway is a former D&Der who claims the online game compares favorably. You do all the same kinds of things, build characters, role-play, etc. Because it’s online it has that same type of interactivity, but with many more people. Atabong said he and his guild have been using voice-over-IP for years to coordinate their gaming. I’m afraid to investigate because I don’t have the time to get hooked, but I must say I’m certainly intrigued.

I haven’t had a chance to reread it since it just arrived Saturday from Amazon after being backordered, but I now have both books I ordered for myself as a birthday present. Watchmen by Alan Moore. Probably the best graphic novel I’ve ever read. Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean came right away. This might not seem like a big deal, but since I started working at libraries I almost never buy books. I still have boxes full in the basement from my previous life, but now I just check stuff out for the most part. So to actually buy myself a couple of books is a treat. I’m looking forward to reading Watchmen again, but may have to wait a while before I get to it.

I guess I am in that grey area, age-wise. I’m young enough that I grew up with video games and I basically “get it,” but I just don’t really get into it. They have 7 or 8 TVs set up in back with consoles and people were playing a Mario driving game or something over the break. It held no appeal for me, because every time I’ve played games much in the past I get bored with it rather quickly. Watching others is torturously boring. There’s just enough hook for me that I can get short-term obsessed over the challenge of a game, but it’s never lasted more than an hour or two. So while I can get excited for others who are made happy by gaming, I don’t feel any desire for myself.

Ode to Hadrian

a d&d love song

Everyone else has had more exp. than me.
Everyone else has had more exp. than me.

No? Probably not?

I just hought I would submit something. I know it's not much, but hey. It's something. :D
A pizza doesn't scream. *shrug*

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Traveling Techie

A few months back the spouse decided to get a laptop to help with her teacher work. A while later she had a friend help her set up a wireless connection at our house. I've highjacked the machine a bit in the evenings and have gotten addicted to doing all my email in front of the TV. Now I'm trying another first, web surfing (and blogging) in bed. I also happen to be in a hotel room in Chicago for the Gaming in Libraries Symposium. We flew in today and I'm supposed to be getting to sleep early so I'm fresh for tomorrow, but wanted to try out the online access first. Pretty cool. It might actually be the first time I've used a laptop in my lap. Nothing too exciting to report about the trip yet, except that I've gotten to know a couple of colleagues much better (you can check out one here). I'll see if spending two days with gamers and bloggers and tech types inspires me to any especially deep thoughts.

Oh Please, Already.

Enough people, enough. There is no "war on Christmas", for God's sake. It is a myth, cooked up somewhere in the collective fevered imagination of the American right. It is a bright and shiny trinket dangled before the faithful to distract them from the real issues of the day. It is a chimera designed to keep James Dobson's coffers full and Bill O'Reilly's ratings high. It is a symptom of a deep and pervasive paranoia, a badge of victimhood proudly and petulantly worn by the most privileged and powerful people in the history of the world. It is, in short, pure unmitigated bullshit. Nothing more.

Warning for conservatives: nuance ahead. I know how that sort of thing usually flies right past you, so I thought I would give you the heads up....

Which is not to say, of course, that there aren't people who are overly sensitive, who would like everyone in the world to keep their religious views to themselves, who are offended by any public recognition of views or beliefs that are different than their own, and who whinge tirelessly about just how offended they are-- but there aren't many of them, there never have been, and they've never been very powerful. The whole "political correctness" movement that causes "conservatives" to lose so much sleep was barely a blip, a speedbump in the road of history. And though many of its absurdities still linger on in our culture, they are simply that: absurdities, not evidence of a liberal secularist plot to destroy everything that the more mythologically minded amongst us hold dear. In a few years, the entire "PC" phenomenon will only be remembered for what it taught the Right: how to whine and bitch and play the offended victim, far out of any proportion to any real wrong inflicted upon them.

So please, people, shut the fuck up already.

Oh, and Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 02, 2005

?xommuL ,nairdaH ,uleeL

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